Goodman Theatre Presents THE CHERRY ORCHARD Review — Earned Nostalgia

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An aristocratic room with a Rococo flair, baby-blue walls touched with delicate rolls of cloud, stars, and gilded ridges, kindly immerses us in a 19th century bourgeois world. The costumes, be they the suits of economic man, silky pink dresses, or thick Russian furs, complement the stately poses and flowery hand waves. These features combine in painterly precision, scenes of fluid movement and soft shadow fit no less for the canvas than the stage, in this writer’s opinion. The near-final scene is perhaps the best example; the inhabitants of this floral villa, reluctant to leave, their orchard soon-to-be chopped, wilt to the floor and stare in unified solemnity. Kate Fry’s (Lyubov Ranevskaya) face, close to quivering, is the heart that holds together the sad remembrance of this place they hate so much to leave.

Many moments of visual beauty occur in this production. During one breathless transition as classical music flares, the room swiftly recedes into the background. Rapidly shifting shadows cast by a sunny light from the window intensify the gaze of our angsty black-coated beatnik, Petya Trofimov (Stephen Cefalu Jr.). The passing of days ensues through this real-time chiaroscuro, lending a cinematic speed to the story. Other set pieces like a gleaming bicycle, a miniature tea table seated with dolls, and a dressing cabinet, much monologized about by Leonid Gayev (Christopher Donahue), add color and playful fodder for the actors. Such playful interactions with the set, in this writer’s opinion, served to vivify the emotional salience of our characters’ beloved estate.

Goodman Theatre’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD Is Like a Live Painting

In true Russian fashion, the story weaves together a host of characters, all distinct and none boring. Money-minded Yermolai Lopakhin (Kareem Bandealy) spearheads and dramatically imposes a plan to cut down the cherry orchard to bestow on the lot some profitable cottages; he lashes down nostalgic sentiments, often reminding his friends of the former serfs who raised him. Business-suited Bandealy spars with Cefalu’s student-debted and abstract-minded Petya in a war between theory and practice. Petya instructs his more hygienic opponent not to hand-wave so profusely; it is a sign of ill-education. Fluttery Anya (Raven Whitley)—belonging to a Romantic painting—rollicks outside with the debonair and rather laissez Semyon Yepikhodov (Will Allan). And to the weary bearlike Firs (Francis Guinan), told to shut up on repeat by Gayev to our guilty delight, everyone is a “Nincompoop,” with which phrase he more often than not got our sympathetic laughs.

THE CHERRY ORCHARD is truly a grand event and should entice any lovers of classic theater. A well-rounded production, it contains something for most theater-goers: exuberance, drama, soul, and beauty.


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April 1 - May 7, 2023


Albert Theatre
170 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL 60601



For more information and tickets visit the Goodman Theatre website.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago.

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Anthony Neri

About the Author: Anthony Neri

An avid philosophizer and Dostoevsky fanboy, Anthony spends his time ruminating on very deep moral questions. Is he a genuine old soul or does he feign as much for the mystique?--perhaps a bit of both. When he isn't tormenting himself existentially, he reads fiction and translates ancient Greek and Latin texts, all the while developing his own literary flourishes with the hope of producing his very own dazzling prose. Cliche? Maybe. But he figures everyone starts out as a cliche.

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